Tsarevets Fortress, a Taste of Veliko Tarnovo, a Stop in Teteven, and on to Maluk Izvor

I slept soooo well in Veliko Tarnovo. That bed! The room was also dark and despite all the traffic in the evening, things quieted down around ten. I woke up just past eight (!), took a moment to wake up, and then went to have breakfast. I only had four hours till I had to vacate my parking spot and that felt like just the right amount of time for the day, but that I should not waste any of it.

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Quite a nice view from my room. Soon as I opened my curtains, these guys waved at me and yelled good morning!

Breakfast was an acceptable buffet. The coffee was out of those popular Nescafe dispensers and too sweet for my taste, but the food was good. I enjoyed a selection of meats, bread, jam, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives, which I understand is a fairly typical Bulgarian breakfast.

This is what parking looks like in these car unfriendly towns, people parking almost on top of each other. Both myself and the folks in the light grey car had said we weren’t leaving till noon, so that dark grey car was parked behind us.

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That reminds me that I forgot to recount my adventure getting out of my parking spot in Nessebar! It looked like I had a lot of room to get out, but it was all in the wrong places. To avoid a bollard, I would hit a taxi. To avoid the taxi, I would scrape the car on my passenger side. I had to do like I did with Miranda and mentally imagine all the manoeuvres I’d have to do with the car to get it out. I was reasonably confident I’d figured it out when a man knocked on my driver’s side window. All I got of what he said was “Not good.” He made some motions that rather mimicked how I had planned to get out and then he pointed from his eyes to me. It was clear that he was saying, “I’ll spot you.” Well, he did, and it was a great job! I slid out of that spot smoothly, with no extra steps, in a couple of minutes. On my own, I would have had to continually get out of the car to check my clearances. He was my hero of the day!

Back to this morning, the first thing I wanted to do was visit the medieval stronghold of Tsarevets. It was the primary fortress of the Second Bulgarian Empire from 1185 to 1393. My hotel happened to be right by the entrance. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have parked closer to it!

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Looking down from the hotel parking lot.

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Around the corner from the hotel, looking towards town, the fortress behind me. When I left with the car, I drove up from the left in this picture and turned left to where that car is in the middle of the picture.

Tsaravets fortress! The ticket booth is right before it. 6BGN to get in.

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The man in pink is the ticket checker. He had his hands full a few hours later as I came out of the fortress!

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My mood was giddiness. Remember that I’m a medieval history major! This would be my second opportunity to explore medieval ruins (first time was, of course, in Scotland).

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The wooden bridge felt very spongy!

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This maps shows just how massive the complex would have been. There is quite a lot left still to see!

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This was one of the only English signs on the whole property. “You might encounter reptiles” AND medieval ruins? 😀

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There was a very clear PA announcement in a couple of languages, including English, which recited the warnings and gave additional information. It sounded like it was narrated by a poor man’s Alan Rickman (RIP), especially when he said, “You may encounter reptiles,” in that flat bored sounding tone of Rickman’s. Made me laugh every time I heard it!

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I liked how they hid the modern pipes in these old broken ones:

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One of many bells on site.

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All the signage was in Bulgarian, what I assume is Russian, and German. Between the Bulgarian and the German, I could get just the gist of what I was looking at. We know from the above sign that I’m at Baldwin’s tower and I’m pretty sure that the site was restored in 1933…

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The ceilings inside the tower were low. The main floor reminded me a bit of my house in Malak Izvor.

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“Monastery complex” ruins ahead.

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Tsarevets was a huge city and had many churches, monasteries, and residential and commercial buildings in addition to being a centre of administration and governance.

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The complex is huge, but felt like it had a logical flow. I found myself climbing higher and higher without really noticing it.

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This shows where the kings lived and governed.

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These are the steps leading up to the church. I rounded the corner and heard québécois accents!

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I said to the group of men that it was good to hear my accent again. They laughed. We did small talk for a minute. They are from the Outaouais, where I lived until 2008!

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I came out of the church and heard some folks complaining in Spanish about the chill this morning (much appreciated), but that it was better than the unrelenting heat that was worse than anything they’d experienced in Hermosillo. Wait. What?! I had to intervene and asked if they were from Sonora. Yes! I said that I spent two winters in Mexico. We chatted for a bit and I offered to take pictures. I sure didn’t expect to get in some good Spanish practice this morning, but there you have it!

I went around the back of the church hoping to be able to get even further up, but my hopes were dashed by the elevator being closed. 🙁

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No stairs either!

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I was as far up as I could go, so I headed down, eager to find the “Cliff of Death” the loudspeaker announcer kept on warning us about!

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There is a light show here at night. Must be spectacular!

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And behold the Cliff of Death! This picture does not convey the sheer drop. Rumour has it there were executions carried out here.

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Sumac, just like back in Quebec!

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Something about a gate. *wry grin*

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These stairs were fun in a long flowy skirt!

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Well, that’s graphic! The point of the exhibits up here is for folks to touch them, so there were kids playing executioner and condemned!

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I had heard shrieking on my way up, which I initially thought was the kids recreating the executions, but it was actually two gals who got their long hair caught in these very heavy helmets!

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Back near the entrance was a catapult.

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It was only as I left the complex, a full two hours after I arrived (I can’t believe how quickly time passed!) that I saw this lettering on the walls. Something about restoration in the ’70s, I believe.

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I had just over an hour before checkout time when I’d had my fill of Tsarevets, so I decided to check out Veliko Tarnovo.

I would not want to be a bus driver in this town!

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This ice cream brand has so many different names! No, I did not indulge…

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This “Tequila Bar” made me laugh.

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A statue of Bulgaria’s four kings. I didn’t have time to get right down to it.

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There were many panoramic view points along the main road, but this was my favourite, a strip of steel and wood leading into the abyss.

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This is where I had dinner last night:

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You can sort of see how their rear windows overlook the city. I ate downstairs.

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I found a Raffy’s gelato stand somewhere around this point. They are all over Bulgaria and, in my opinion, the best. The gal at the hotel agrees with me! I had my favourite, chocolate hazelnut!

This shop name made me laugh.

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I headed back to the hotel through an alleyway behind the church.

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Notice how modern life is squeezed into this ancient towns, cars parked where they can, rubbish bins under the bridge arches.

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Last night, I completely missed this sign saying my hotel was thataway. But guess what? Even in broad daylight, sober, and with my glasses on, I still made a wrong turn getting there. It’s a wonder I found it in the first place!

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I thought this wood being chain sawed was very pretty. As I took a picture, I heard one of the workers make a comment that had the word tourist in it. I bet it wasn’t flattering!

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I’m so pleased I went to Tsarevets and Veliko Tarnovo! My morning and short evening were just the right amount of time. It was then time to head back to Malak Izvor and work. 🙁 It was surprisingly easy to get out of Veliko Tarnovo, just a couple of turns and then straight west.

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I made a small detour to Teteven, a nearby town I’ve been wanting to go back to, to get a late lunch and some groceries. The town’s setting is spectacular!

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This is the stand where I had my very first ice cream in Bulgaria. 😀 No, I did not get any today.

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“Here…” something happened? 🙂

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I was happy to find cold water!

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I crossed the river to find the produce market, so reminiscent of Mexico!

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A quick slice of pizza sounded ideal for lunch and I found one. I was shocked that the stand had a guy who spoke perfect English. The woman who started to serve me threw her hands up in disgust when she realised I don’t speak Bulgarian. Funny how some people are. The guy at the ice cream stand in Veliko Tarnovo spoke slowly to me and I was able to understand him fine even if I couldn’t always answer (eg. “Cup or cone?” and I’d point to the cup).

Well, it has finally happened; I’ve had pizza with sweet corn! It was actually good! The pizza slice had been there a while, but I actually prefer my pizza at this temperature, so I found this quite good.

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I got a few groceries after my pizza and then it was then a very short drive to Malak Izvor, where the doggies and cat were happy to see me. I put on laundry, hoping the threatening rain holds off long enough for my things to dry, and took the pups on a short walk. Now, work! 🙁

I plan to work tomorrow morning and head off in the afternoon to view a local sight or two and then go further afield, past Sofia on Thursday. We shall see how that works out.

4 thoughts on “Tsarevets Fortress, a Taste of Veliko Tarnovo, a Stop in Teteven, and on to Maluk Izvor

  1. Rae, the fortress looks like what we see in Disney fairytales. Harry Potter could have been made in Veliko Tărnovo.

    One thing (you probably know by now that I notice the most obscure things), in your photos of churches, have you noticed something missing outside of the churches (at least by North American standards)? There are no cemeteries around the churches. If the movie “Dr. Zhivago” is considered a credible source (ha!), in the first part of the movie, little Zhivago with his family took his deceased mother from their village by foot into the surrounding plains to a family burial plot. Of course that was Russia before World War I, not Bulgaria. But the traditions could be similar in Bulgaria to put family to rest away from the villages.

    Dee

    • It was an amazing set of ruins! That’s well spotted re. the lack of cemeteries. Now, I’m racking my brain trying to remember if I have ever seen a cemetery here!

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